My trip to Brazil, enjoying an evening stroll along Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, visiting a boutique Cachaça distillery in the hills above Paraty, spending three nights on the tropical paradise of Ilha Grande and walking through the narrow alleys and up the steep steps of Favela Santa Marta in Rio de Janeiro.

Day 1.

Inside Terminal 1 at Dubai International airport at 2:30am, ready to catch our 4:40am flight to Addis Ababa.

We had checked in online and printed our boarding passes at home, so after heading through immigration and security, caught the train to Concourse D.

At the Maharba lounge for an early morning snack.

South America had been a big hole in my travel map for quite a while, mainly due to distance and cost with flights around the $2000 mark, either direct on Emirates or via Europe or the USA.

I had toyed with spending 2-3 weeks visiting 3 or more countries there, but decided to keep it simple for my first trip to the continent by visiting just one country for a week or so.

While searching for options earlier in the year I found flights on Ethiopian Airlines to São Paulo from Dubai for a very reasonable $1120. While it meant stops in both Addis Ababa and Lomé on the way, it was ~$700 cheaper than taking a direct flight on Emirates and only arrived in Brazil an hour later.

I had initially considered doing something adventurous such as visiting the Amazon, but again decided to keep it simple and conventional by travelling overland up to Rio de Janeiro.

To get back to São Paulo from Rio de Janeiro for the return we booked a flight on Azul Brazilian Airlines for a very reasonable $40 each.

Hence our flights for the trip were:
Day 1: Flying Ethiopian Airlines (ET) from Dubai to São Paulo via Addis Ababa and Lomé (DXB-ADD-LFW-GRU).
Day 10: Flying Azul Brazilian Airlines (JB) from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo (SDU-GRU).
Flying Ethiopian Airlines (ET) from São Paulo to Dubai via Lomé and Addis Ababa (GRU-LFW-ADD-DXB).

On the travelator heading to the gate.

The ET 777 waiting to take us to Addis Ababa.

Simple breakfast served soon after take-off.

Watching the film Kong: Skull Island. Quite an entertaining movie, especially when anti-hero Samuel Jackson was squished like a bug by big Kong!

A cup of coffee to clear away the early morning cobwebs.

Disembarking at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on time just after 7:30am.

A crowd in the morning shade of the 777, waiting for the bus to take us to the terminal.

Our flight to São Paulo wasn't until 9:30am so plenty of time to clear security and head to the gate.

Boarding the ET 787 with a new ET A350 in the background.

The extra large windows on the 787 seemed to light up the cabin alot more during the day.

A glass of white wine and sandwich for a mid-morning snack.

Fish and rice for lunch served somewhere over Central Africa.

We spent just over an hour on the ground in Lomé, Togo. A few passengers disembarked and a few others came onboard. Lomé is the main hub for ASKY Airlines and which is also 40% owned by Ethiopian Airlines.

Eye mask, a pair of socks and toothbrush that were handed out. These kind of amenities are increasingly rare in the back of the plane, so it was cool to see them today on Ethiopian.

Drink and snacks served after we took off from Lomé. We were served another hot meal again on the flight to São Paulo.

We were served another hot meal again on the flight to São Paulo, and then the Flight Attendants came around the cabin asking if anyone wanted another of the leftover meals a few hours later.

Getting close to São Paulo. My head was full with both equal amounts of nervousness and excitement on my first trip to South America.

After arrival at São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport just after 5:30pm the queue for immigration was very short and we were through to baggage claim in only a few minutes.

After getting some Brazilian reals at the ATM we visited the taxi desk and then headed out to catch our ride into the city.

The 28 kilometre ride into the city centre took just over 40 minutes in the evening rush hour and cost 150 reals ($46).

Our room at Hotel Feller Avenida Paulista. Only $89 including breakfast so we were pleasantly surprised that the room was actually pretty good.

The view from our balcony of the street below.

After freshening up we headed out to Paulista Avenue for an evening stroll.

We weren't hungry after all the food on the flight over, so just had a coffee and some cake at a café before heading back to the hotel to get some rest before another day of travel tomorrow.

Day 2.

After a morning jog around the streets of São Paulo, we headed downstairs for a decent breakfast at the hotel restaurant.

Checking out the hotel pool on the top floor.

And looking down on the city below. We had considered spending an additional night in São Paulo, but with the sights in the city being supposedly limited, we decided to instead continue our journey to Paraty.

At 8:30am we checked out of the hotel and headed to the nearest metro station to catch the train to the bus station.

And inside Terminal Rodoviário Tietê, ready to catch the bus to Paraty.

Our plan for the next nine days was to head to Paraty via Caraguatatuba, where we would spend two nights before heading on to Ilha Grande (Big Island). After a relaxing three night stay on the island we would head north-east to spend three days enjoying the energetic vibe and unique atmosphere of the very colourful city of Rio de Janeiro.

I had prebooked the tickets online for 78 reals ($24) each, and picked up the actual tickets at the bus company booth.

Heading to the gate to begin the seven hour bus ride to Paraty.

The bus was relatively modern and with only 40 seats total there was plenty of legroom and space. It is also possible to take this bus overnight, departing São Paulo at 10pm and arriving in Paraty at 5am the next day.

The bus then headed out of the city towards Paraty, stopping at towns on the way to drop off and pick up passengers.

Stopping at a roadside restaurant to grab a snack and use the bathroom.

Looking out to the Atlantic Ocean just after passing through Caraguatatuba on the coast.

Chips and drink at a service station before the final 90 minute drive to Paraty.

We rolled into Paraty Bus Station just before 5pm. Our pousada was only a short ~400 metre walk away.

And our room for the next two nights at Pousada dos Contos. Only 157 reals ($49) per night including breakfast for the two of us so very reasonable.

We then headed out to explore the cobbled streets of Centro Histórico.

Paraty was founded as a village in 1597 and then formally as a town by the Portuguese in 1667.

Guaianás Indians who lived where the town now stands called the area “Paraty”, which means “"river of fish".

Praça da Matriz.

The town was served as a stop for travelers between Rio and São Paulo until the late 1800s, when the inner road was opened between the two cities. This caused Paraty to go into decline and almost be forgotten, but it also helped preserve its old city due to the lack of economic progress.

It was great to finally relax and walkabout after two full days of travel.

We settled on the nearby Casa Coupê Restaurante for dinner.

I opted for the tasty seafood platter.

While Rianda had the crumbed fish bites. After only having snacks throughout the day it was great to have a delicious meal.

For dessert we shared the very decadent chocolate brownie, smothered in vanilla ice cream and sweet chocolate sauace.

And a cuppaccino to end a great dinner.

We then wandered back along the streets of Centro Histórico and back to Pousada dos Contos at the end of day 2.

Day 3.

After a good sleep I headed out to see the sunrise above Baia Carioca on the morning of day 3.

Looking back west over Paraty.


Looking down on boats moored along the pier.


Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Dores (Church of Our Lady of Sorrows), built in 1800, at bottom right.

And rising up for a panorama of Paraty before heading back to the pousada.

Breakfast at the pousada to fuel up for a day of exploring around Paraty.

We then headed out for a stroll around Paraty again.

Colourful boats along the wharf.

Lady in the window.

Beach Street.

At 10:30am we met up with our guide Gabriel at Paraty Adventure in Centro Histórico and then headed out of town on our mountain bikes.

We headed west, up into the hills and through some of the smaller villages.

Impório Capixaba.

Stopping to dip the feet in the river. Gabriel said that in summer there is alot more water flowing over the rocks in the background and it is a popular place for the locals to get wet and cool off.

Gabriel showing us a little tadpole from the river.

Continuing our bike ride through the hills.

Stopping at another river to catch our breath after a good hill climb.

Looking down from above. We then walked upstream to the bridge across the river.

And a great place for a holiday selfie!

Some of the locals about to take a dip.

A post showing the historic gold trail.

Gabriel explained to us that once gold was discovered in the mountains of Minas Gerais in the 17th century, Paraty became an export port for gold to Rio de Janeiro and then on to Portugal.

To help transport the gold, the "Caminho do Ouro" or "Gold Trail", a 1200 kilometer road, was constructed. Due to frequent attacks by pirates on the gold laden ships bound for Rio de Janeiro from Paraty, a safer overland route was constructed from Minas Gerais to Rio de Janeiro and the Gold Trail subsequently fell into disuse. The gold began to run out in the late 18th century and lead to the eventual decline of Paraty.

Our next stop was Cachaça Pedra Branca, a boutique Cachaça distillery in the hills above Paraty.

Gabriel gave us an indepth lesson on how the Cachaça is distilled from fermented sugarcane juice.

Cachaça, like rum, has two main varieties: unaged (Portuguese: branca, "white" or prata, "silver") and aged (amarela, "yellow" or ouro, "gold") in oak barrels.

We then headed inside to sample some of the different types of Cachaça.

They also had a good range of liquers made from Cachaça, ranging from chocolate and coffee to banana and caramel.

As we only had carry-on luggage, we just opted for a couple of small liqueur bottles of banana and chocolate.

Biking past a Harley Davidson motorcyle club out for a ride as we make our way back down the hill.

A truck selling oranges beside the road.

Back to Paraty.


And outside Paraty Adventure where we thanked Gabriel for a great ride out into the hills above Paraty.

It was almost 3pm and we were hungry for something to eat so headed to a nearby café.


It was recommended by Gabriel and was quite a hip little place.

After the 35+ kilometre bike ride we indulged in a turkey and ham wrap, chocolate brownie sundae and a cuppaccino to share.

After resting up at the pousada for a bit, we headed down to the water again to do some sightseeing. A couple below walking along the beach.

There was dark rain clouds up in the hills.

The weather to the east was quite a contrast with blue skies and sunshine.

A schooner making its way back to Paraty.

Ilha da Bexiga (Bladder Island). The name of the island comes from the early twentieth century when smallpox victims (then called "bladders") were kept there in quarantine and eventually buried.

The island currently hosts the School of the Sea project, run by the Brazilian navigator Amyr Klink (and owner of the island) and teaches children the art of sailing.

Looking down on Ilhas Duas Irmãs (Two Sister Island).

Another schooner heading back after taking some tourists out for a day trip.

Looking back at Paraty.

Waves breaking near the beach and the hills shrouded in cloud in the background.

Seagulls scattering below.

We then walked back through the streets of Centro Histórico again.

Outside Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário E São Benedito (Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Benedict), built in 1725.

Saturday evening mass underway inside.

For dinner we headed to Pizzaria da Cidade on Rua do Comercio.

Sharing the veal carpaccio to start.

Followed by a very sizable pizza! One half we had the Caprichada (mozzarella, ham, palm hearts, mushroom, oregano and olives) and the Alichi on the other half (mozzarella, anchovies, oregano and olives).

We then enjoyed one last stroll through the cobbled streets of Centro Histórico before heading back to the poussada at the end of day 3.

Day 4.

Sunrise after a morning run around Paraty.

Enjoying a tasty breakfast again at the pousada.

At 8:30am our ride arrived to take us the 130 kilometres to Conceição de Jacareí, where we would catch a boat over to Ilha Grande (Big Island). It is possible to catch a public bus to Angra dos Reis and then catch the public ferry over to the island, but as the bus and ferry times are not co-ordinated, it would have meant spending several hours waiting in between. The transfer cost from our pousada in Paraty to Ilha Grande main pier was less than $30 each so it was a no-brainer option.

Stopping at a service station for a 10 minute break.

They had Snickers bars with hunger symptons on the wrapper. I had seen them in Dubai in both English and Arabic so it was fun to see them in Portugese too.

We arrived in Conceição de Jacareí on time at 11am for the 14 kiometre ride over to Ilha Grande on the Aquaholic.

Boarding the boat.

Leaving the mainland.

Vila do Abraão in sight as we make our way to the island.

At the main pier just after 12pm on Ilha Grande.

And after only a short walk we arrived at Cama & Café Pé na Areia where we would be staying for the next three nights. Only 305 real ($98) a night including breakfast.

We weren't too hungry after the big breakfast so went to one of the beach cafés for a light lunch.

The weather was quite a contrast to the day before with bright blue skies and no clouds in sight. The island retreat owes its unblemished undeveloped, pristine condition to its unusual history. First as a pirates lair, then a leper colony and finally as a jail for both politcal prisoners and some of Brazil's most violent criminals.

Looking down on the beautiful blue-green water

A small islet to the right.

Ilhas do Macedo.

Looking across Abraão Bay. Ilha Grande has an area of 193 km², or slightly bigger than Mahé, the largest island of Seychelles where we had visited earlier in the year.

And another panoramic view just offshore looking back at Vila do Abraão.

We then went for a walk on the beach for a more terrestrial view.

Açaí and pineapple popsicles bought from a kiosk on the beach.

We continued walking along the waterside track for ~1.2 kilometres until Praia da Crena and then enjoyed an afternoon rest under a tree.

Walking back along the track.

Coffee and biscuits back at the B&B.

As it was Sunday afternoon there were plenty of people heading back to the mainland on the public ferry after a relaxing weekend on the island.

Looking back at Vila do Abraão at dusk.

Black Beach just west of town where we would head to tomorrow.

The ferry about to depart for Angra dos Reis.

There are no private motor vehicles on the island so the streets are mainly for pedestrians and the few government vehicles such as the fire truck and school bus.

The ferry now on its way back to the mainland.

As dusk fell we went for a walk through the streets.

The town had a nice easy going atmosphere, being well set up to cater to tourists but not overwhelmingly so.

For dinner we headed to a local restaurant on the waterfront and enjoyed some tasty grilled steak and fries at the end of day 4.

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